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Staph Risk at the Beach Leads to Discovery of Disease Fighting Drugs

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

Scientists from NOAA's National Ocean Service have recently discovered a wide array of potential pharmaceuticals from the ocean. The discovery parallels the news that going to the beach exposes us to staph infection. NOAA researchers have also discovered disease fighting, natural occurring drugs.

While exploring environmental issues in the ocean and among the coral reefs that impact human health, researchers also found natural, non-toxic chemicals that should lead to the development of new antibiotics, anti-cancer drugs, anti-fungals, and anti-viral drugs to help humans fight disease.

The natural chemical compounds discovered in the ocean carry fewer side effects, and are much less toxic to humans than drugs currently used. The scientists believe they may have found the answer to antibiotic resistance in the ocean's chemicals. "We believe that one could apply many of these chemical mechanisms or novel pharmaceuticals to human disease resulting in a number of alternatives to deal with growing antibiotic resistance."

The group from NOAA saw how the brown tube sponge Agelas conifera has the ability to protect itself from disease by creating a biofilm that disrupts the protective layer that makes bacteria difficult to eradicate. The discovery of the substances, known as ageliferin derivatives, may also have other disease fighting applications in humans.

The recent finding that our beaches can expose us to risks of Staph infection also brings good news about how marine life can help us fight disease. We do have environmental threats to human health, but scientists are also finding cure for many human diseases from exploring our delicate ecosystem.

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Paul Sandifer, Ph.D., former member of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, chief scientist of NOAA's Oceans and Human Health Initiative tells us, "While the marine environment can indeed be hostile to humans, it may also provide new resources to help reduce our risks from illnesses such as those caused by water borne staph or seafood poisoning."

NOAA research scientist Peter Moeller, Ph.D says, "We've found significant new tools to fight the antibiotic resistance war. Discovery of the ageliferin derivatives…" could lead to a new class of helper drugs and result in a rebirth for antibiotics no longer thought effective. Its potential application to prevent biofilm build-up in stents, intravenous lines and other medical uses is incredible."

Exposure to staph infection at the beach is certainly newsworthy. Scientists warn that bathing before and after swimming, as well as good skin care are important to prevent staph infection after swimming in the water of our coastal regions.

We can also embrace the discovery of new drugs from the ocean that can promote rather than destroy human health.

The ocean poses some threat to human health, and the new research warns of the risk of staph infection. The same discovery also brings hope for the development of natural compounds that can help humans fight disease. Natural compounds from the ocean have shown no toxic effects after two rounds of sophisticated testing, and the news is exciting.